Driving Miss Penny(less)

27 04 2008


By Danielle Brock (Dangirl)



“Could you fill up my tank please?”

“Sure. Unleaded?”
“Yes, please.”


Sitting in my little car, with a 35 litre tank, I watch the numbers on the ‘Rand’ screen on the petrol pump go up and up.


“That’s R324.11 please.”

“Um, ok do you accept debit cards?”


These are my last words before I swipe away a big chunk out of my monthly allowance. R1000 used to last me a month’s worth of food, petrol and ‘entertainment’. Now I have to resort to the dreaded phone call back home to mom: “Do you think you could deposit an extra R300 this month?”


It’s comforting to know that I’m not the only car-owner with this problem. Nationwide motorists are feeling the pinch in their wallets when filling up their tanks after the increase in petrol and diesel prices that has occurred this year alone. After spending some time on the South African Petroleum Industry Association’s (SAPIA) website, I began to think. It’s scary to think that since the start of 2008 South Africans have had to fork out an extra R1.50 a litre of petrol and R2.16 for diesel. These prices are, however, dependent on the grade of fuel and region. This may not sound like much but, in retrospect, if one looks back at what they were paying this time last year, a mere R6.54 per litre of petrol (April 2007) and R5.51 per litre of diesel (January 2007). According to Statistics South Africa, this adds up to approximately 68% and 58% increase in petrol and diesel prices respectively.


This is not the end of the uphill climb of inflation. The Times has warned of a further increase set for 7 May of 35c for petrol and 50c for diesel. This means motorists will now be paying close to R10 a litre to run their cars. So for anyone who is reading this before that date, best you fill up soon to avoid the usual queues at your local service station.


But these have further implications for those who don’t even have their own forms of transport. After the 5 March increase many taxi owners put up their fares by R1. Currently, many Joza residents have to pay R6 one way to get to Grahamstown CBD. In a city where other forms of public transport such as trains and busses are unavailable (who, according to an article published on IOL, have not increased their prices since 2003), this leaves students with little option but to pay the R240 a month to get to their lectures on campus.


For those of us who don’t actually know the ins and outs of how these prices are calculated, an interview with Avhapfani Tshifularo, the Controlled Products Pricing and Fuels Taxation advisor at (SAPIA) on News24 revealed some necessary information useful to the layman.


The price of fuel is dependent on the international markets and supply and demand because if more fuel is demanded than can be supplied, the prices will have to be increased. The exchange rate also affects these prices as a weakening rand against the dollar will also increase the fuel price. This affected all of the increases in 2007.


South Africa regulates their fuel prices, meaning that all fuelling stations have fixed prices including Sasol, our local fuel producing company. The regulation of fuel prices has been blamed for this price hike but Tshifularo argues that deregulation will not decrease prices but rather fuel (ha ha) competition. Sasol has to follow the prices of imported fuel because petrol and diesel are international products based on other prices such as crude oil. However, the basic fuel price only constitutes about 68% of the total price while the rest is made up of levies, dealer’s margin and transportation of the fuel. By quick calculation, this means that the basic fuel price of a litre of petrol is currently only about R5, 90. The price of fuel used to transport the fuel is creating the price of the fuel. That was confusing, but true.


So we’re all a little more clearer on how the South African economy may just not be ripping us off, but there is a serious issue that hasn’t been addressed. Energy products do not only include petrol and diesel but also paraffin – the staple source of ‘power’ for many South Africans. In areas that electricity does not reach (ok, so that could be the whole country), dwellers rely on paraffin to cook food and power light sources. This paraffin, however, will cost a family R7, 60 a litre, just less than R2 more than they would’ve paid last year. I do suppose this is not much of an incline in comparison to Eskom’s proposed 60% increase on electricity prices – but that is a whole other issue I don’t want to get involved in.


I have no intentions of this having any affect on the petrol price (if it did I could drop out of university as the Superwoman) but have really learnt a thing or two. We can’t blame this damage solely on SA and we can’t expect this problem to be rectified anytime soon. I guess it’s back to the good ol’ foot action for a while, at least until I can refill my tank.  


Déjà vu? How history repeats itself.

10 04 2008

By Fatz

I can still quite clearly remember my history lessons in school (that’s probably because it wasn’t that long ago) where we studied The Great Depression in the U.S and its effects on the rest of the world. I even remember a cartoon representation in a textbook showing a German man using money to make himself a fire because it was completely worthless to him.

Being a history student at heart (perhaps even more so than I am a journalism student) I know we often see history as being about ‘them’, and never us. We see it as the study of the people of the past, their suffering, their wars, their actions- and not often do we think about our suffering, our wars, our actions.

I was doing my daily news check up on the net the other day and came across an article about… wait for it… impending doom! (If you’re a regular reader of my blog posts you would have by now discovered my love for melodramatics).

By impending doom, I’m referring to the expected ‘mild recession’ of the American economy with America’s mortgage crisis spiralling into “the largest financial shock since the Great Depression”. There is mounting pessimism about the ability of the rest of the world to escape unscathed. The IMF expects world economic growth to slow to 3.7% over the next two years- and this is their optimistic estimate. Apparently (forgive me, I’m not much of a numbers girl) if this figure drops to below 3% there’s a 1 in 4 chance of a global economic recession (just to give you better perspective on this, you also have a 1 in 4 chance of being a victim of online virus and other internet threats.)

How this will affect our rate of growth of exports is quite obvious- The rate of growth of imports into wealthy nations is expected to drop sharply, leading to a cut in the rate of growth of exports by developing countries (ie. us).

What are the implications of this financial mumbo jumbo? Who will suffer? Certainly not Eskom’s directors (I’m still reeling from the shock of their bonuses). The working class, your average Joe, his wife and his three kids. Those are the people who will have to deal with inflated food costs and with the Credit Act (despite its perhaps honourable intentions) making it increasingly difficult for people to get home loans, Joe’s also gotta worry about putting a roof over their heads.

Here’s what happened in my brain when I was reading the article: I imagined us burning our paper money to make fires, then I thought about the Zimbabwean dollar which could already be used for this purpose, then I thought about cheese (I was hungry), realised that the price of dairy products have sky rocketed, and then I remembered the bread cost saga and a whole chain of neurons (or whatever they are) went firing off in my brain! Is it just déjà vu or have we seen this all before? In a different era, under different circumstances, in a history textbook I used in school?? Ok, so maybe we’re not facing an economic recession comparable to that of The Great Depression, but what is repeated is that it’s the same class of individuals who will bear the brunt of it. Economic inequalities have haunted our past and still are a reality today.

But what do we do? How do we protect Joe and his family? Not an easily answered question. I’m siding with the director of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) who says that what we need is to “find a better balance between the democratic voice of society, the productive dynamic of the market and the regulatory function of the state”. Whatever that means.

So it’s confirmed then, history does indeed repeat itself. You would assume that the logical conclusion is to learn from our fellow homo sapiens mistakes. HA! If only we were logical. This week was the 5 year anniversary of the day the late Saddam Hussein’s statue was toppled by U.S forces in Baghdad. An event which will feature in the history books my children will one day study from. And maybe they (if they get their mothers brain) will consider the same things I am: about the past, about our actions and about cheese (sorry, I’m still hungry).

the great depressionburning moneysaddam statuecheese

The ‘piss off’ conspiracies… a window into my tiny tiny brain.

3 04 2008

by Fathima Simjee

So I have something to confess…

I’m a closet conspiracy theorist
(Ok, so it’s not really a secret, but I decided to go with that approach for the dramatic effect) 

Tupac’s not dead- it was just survival tactics! He faked his death so he could kill Biggie who had pissed him off.

The American moon landing never happened- they just faked it to piss off the Russians.

The Kennedy’s killed Marilyn Monroe- she knew too much after sleeping with half the family, which pissed them off.

‘The third force’ was the cause of the intensified political violence of the 1990’s in South Africa-government security forces and the IFP banded together to piss off the ANC.

The U.S government arranged for planes to fly into the twin towers- to piss off Osama.

There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq (ok this doesn’t really count as a conspiracy)- to piss off Sadam.

That dude who owned Julians Celltech (perhaps his name was Julian?) also faked his death- to piss off the tax and life insurance people.

Pluto being stripped of planet status was just a hoax- to piss off astrologers and screw up their charts.

tupac alive?moonflagmarilyn monroe

 Perhaps it’s just me and my summarized reasons for these rather mysterious events, but does anyone else see a pattern here?Just in case you haven’t, and I’m not sure that’s even possible, maybe my latest conspiracy theory will clear things up for you a little bit.

Load shedding. (Yup, it’s cloaked in conspiracy if you ask me.)

Here it goes: Eskom has made a blood pact (this is optional- once again just added for dramatic effect) with generator companies. They (Eskom) aren’t really having energy/power supply problems, but instead have agreed to cut our power so that generator sales will skyrocket. It’s a win-win situation you see. We’re going to end up paying more for electricity because of their supposed ‘problems’ and generator companies make a fortune.

Why: (and here’s where my pattern comes in to play)

To piss off the (mostly) good people of South Africa.

Oh right, and to make loads of cash which has already been distributed in the form of bonuses to their big wigs in their plush corporate offices with their leather swivel chairs and panoramic city views.

And indeed the good people of South Africa are royally pissed off. Well I am at least. 

Just to get back to my generator theory for a little bit, when researching generator sales in my spare time (haha) I found this interesting statement from Ramon Chetty of Generators KZN.

“Our sales have rocketed, especially with large retail stores and restaurants. Many other sellers have experienced a similar increase.

“We are expecting much more business as installing generators is the only viable option with the load-shedding crisis.”

Ha! And my worst fears were confirmed! You can imagine my hysteria when all the little pieces of the puzzle fell into place in my tiny tiny brain.

But on a more serious note, generators for big business can fetch up to 2 million Rands. Each. That’s a whole lot of zeros, more than my previously mentioned tiny tiny brain can handle.

Once again there was no real point to this blog other than to kill time (but really, is there ever a good reason to be sitting at a computer telling complete strangers what you’re thinking? No.) but I thought id at least share with you my groundbreaking discovery.

What should we do with this information? Its simple really. We should all revert to a former way of life that doesn’t require electricity. Go back to good old steam powered fo’shizzle and what nots and show Eskom the proverbial finger. Why? Ah, but why even ask when the answer is so obvious.

To piss them off.

eskom homerabsolut conspiracy